Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Would Men Do If They Didn’t Have to Impress Women?

impress_women Probably a whole lot of nothing:

What if a guy's job had no effect on his value in the marriage market? How would that affect a young man's career choices? He'd be a heck of a lot less ambitious:

This paper examines the extent to which human capital and career decisions are affected by their potential returns in the marriage market. Although schooling and career decisions often are made before getting married, these decisions are likely to affect the future chances of receiving a marriage offer, the type of offer, and the probability of getting divorced. Therefore, I estimate a forward‐looking model of the marriage and career decisions of young men between the ages of 16 and 39. The results show that if there were no returns to career choices in the marriage market, men would tend to work less, study less, and choose blue‐collar jobs over white‐collar jobs. These findings suggest that the existing literature underestimates the true returns to human capital investments by ignoring their returns in the marriage market.

Source: "Marriage and Career: The Dynamic Decisions of Young Men" from "Journal of Human Capital"

Something to ponder: If you're a natural Casanova are you likely to be less ambitious? Or given the current demographics on college campuses, will we end up with a generation of male college grads who never really get out of first gear?

Other questions:

  • Are men less likely to be ambitious in other populations where there are gender-imbalances in their favor?  (DC?  NY?  Religious groups?)  What about the opposite?  (China?  Silicon Valley?)
  • Are men who cohabitate less ambitious than their marrying peers?  (He’s good enough to live with but not good enough to marry.)
  • Do liberal divorce laws that favor women disincentivize men from marrying, decreasing their productivity?
  • How much of the gender-gap in pay can be attributed to men trying to impress women with their income?

(HT Tyler Cowen)


Kevin said...

Not buy it, mostly because I've been in too many all guy situations (construction or around the old (so-what today's military) and there does not seem to be any less ambition.

Where women will change the dynmaic in my experience is that guys will become more cut-throat for the woman, but only if there is more immediate feedback.

Per cooperation, guys are like a woof pack in that sense, a mixure of cooperation and competition within our "pack."

Per when we don't have to work at getting women, I don't think males ANY less ambitions, it just becomes VERY male, like two friends of the world who went into competition of number and points off the the purity test.

thinking said...

I don't buy it either; men have plenty of other reasons to work besides attracting a woman.

Also, I don't quite get the logic of that study. The study starts out by pointing out an obvious fact, and that is that education and career decisions impact a man's social life in terms of marriage, divorce, etc.

But then there's this leap of logic that somehow concludes that education and career decisions are largely based on this marriage factor.

Just because career decisions impact marriage, does not mean that the marriage issue is the sole or main or even a major factor determining career decisions. That's flawed logic.

The logic is this:
A impacts B, therefore B determines A. Huh?

Finally, re the question on the gender gap, I think that's due to longstanding prejudices against women and their status in society. To assume it's this factor of males trying to impress females, implies that males do a better job than females because of it. That's not empirically true.

Brian Hollar said...

No one is arguing that impressing women is the only factor in men earning money. But it is a significant factor in attracting a mate. Men know it and respond accordingly. I know many guys who pursue high paying jobs so they can support a family and many women who look for those kinds of guys.

Kevin, this is talking about lifelong incentives men face, not how they act situationally when they hang out with their male friends vs. their female friends.

Thinking, of course men have other reasons to earn an income, but attracting a mate is certainly a powerful one. No one is claiming it is the only rationale. Your logic seems to be saying that men often pursue money for X, therefore Y can have nothing to do with their motivation. That doesn't hold. If X and Y are both factors and you take Y away, you reduce the reward of earning money and correspondingly would expect to see a drop off in some people's desire to obtain it. Regarding the gender gap in pay, there are numerous studies showing that women are more likely than men to make trade-offs in pay to get better work-life balance. Men are more likely to take higher-risk jobs and work longer hours (often to take care of families), both of which translate into higher wage premiums. It has nothing to do with performance or capability.

For this to have no effect on male behavor, you'd have to assume that men have zero motivation to impress women via their income. That contradicts empirical evidence, anecdotal evidence, and is equivalent to arguing that men do not respond to incentives.

Brian Hollar said...

P.S. -- Here is a link to the article.

Kevin said...

Brian - Well, this I think will devolve into a Nature V. Nurture debate - at least for a single generation ;-P

I still think guys are wired for a certain ambition, what women do if more define the ambition (the goal as it were).

Thus when women are less-difficult to gain their attention, the ambition tend to go into "notches in bed posts" (either number or acts done - mostly anecdotal evidence). Where romance success is more when women get to set a standard, but I do not think it effect the root of ambition or competition, rather shape it.

I still think this is barking up the wrong tree, sorry.

Kevin said...

More or less William Golding's Lord of the Flies is more intuitive to male (fallen) nature than the conclusion of this study.